Yat-Kha are normally to be found – half of them, anyway – in Tuva, a tiny Siberian province on the borders between Russia and Mongolia. Tonight they’re in the genteel surroundings of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho. The band walk on to the stage, leader Albert Kuvezin carrying a guitar, and one band member carrying what may well be a yat-kha. The drummer, who Kuvezin later introduces as “Mr Rasputin” and a bassist complete the ensemble.

They are here to promote 'Re-Covers', an album of rock covers recorded in a throat-singing style. The band has been together in various forms for over ten years, and this is the first opportunity they have had to record their influences. While these projects normally end in tears (mainly on the part of the listening public), this one is rather good, not least because Yat-Kha have been playing this sort of thing for several years, to mainly Russian audiences.
Albert introduces himself in Russian, a joke that is immediately got by the not-inconsiderable Russian contingent in the house tonight.He then translates for the benefit of the rest of us, then they kick off. A few chords in, a remarkable sound begins to emanate from the stage. It sounds like a snore crossed with a didgeridoo and it begins to take shape around the words of ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’. The effect is startling and spectacular, and makes for a remarkable cover version.

Throat singing involves vibrating the folds of flesh in the throat while making a sound, causing harmonic resonance, which allows throat singers to sing more than one note at once. It’s an impressive feat, particularly when applied to Led Zeppelin.
He dedicates ‘When the Levee Breaks’, possibly a little insensitively, to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Wildly different to the opening song, its pounding beat gives life to the drone of the throat singing. He breaks into two earlier tunes, Tuvan-sounding but with definite, identifiable Western influences. Bob Marley’s 'Exodus' follows, its "movement of Jah people" echoing Yat-Kha’s transcontinental voyage.

The uncontested moment of the show, however, is when the plaintive but recognizable chords from Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ fill the air. There have been covers of this song in the past, most of them terrible, and it is a hard song to get right, but somehow Yat-Kha manage it. Even the Tuvan verses added in by the zither-player work well.

After a couple more Tuvan tunes, Albert says he’s not going to tell us the origins of the next one. “You will have to guess yourself.” It turns out to be a startling, sparkling version of Captain Beefheart’s ‘Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles’. “You know where it’s from, don’t you,” he says at the end. “Somewhere between Russia and America. Maybe Brighton. Or Brixton.”

The final few songs include the Rolling Stones’ ‘Play With Fire’ and, at the end, a rousing version of Iron Butterfly’s ‘In a Gadda-da-Vida’, which takes the crowd by surprise but sends everyone home smiling.














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